Flat

What to do with expensive bubbles and brews when the party dies

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Waste. The scourge of American kitchens. From single-function appliances like Panini presses and bacon bowl molds, to our propensity to over-buy and under-utilize, we’ve all been guilty of letting good food and drink go to waste.

Perhaps the easiest to dismiss is day-old booze. And with good reason — without carbonation, something just tastes off in our sparkling wines, beers and ciders. It’s also hard not to connote flat drinks with memories of stench-filled and grungy college mornings. It’s true letting drinks go flat is not ideal but it need not be a death sentence.

Nor should it be. You spent good money on that fully opened, but half drank bottle of Veuve Clicquot, and just because the carbonation has fizzled out over night doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of the nuanced flavor Champagne and sparkling wine provide.

Carbonation is simply the product of adding sugar and yeast — in beer, sugar and yeast turn wort into alcohol and carbon dioxide, in Champagne and sparkling wine, sugar and yeast are added to the wine, typically made of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir varietals (though you can carbonate any wine, in theory) during a second fermentation. Both wine and beer are bottled before fermentation is complete, so that car bonation is retained for the consumer.

So what you’re left with when the fizzles fade is a still tasty liquid that just needs some help. Instead of pouring out bottles, throw them in the refrigerator and start anew in the morning. Here are a couple ideas how:

Marinade 

The easiest way to maximize your flat drink is to use it to marinade meats. However, you’ll want to cook off the alcohol first before you marinade the meat. Alcohol will prevent any liquid from entering the meat, while also toughening its fibers. You’d essentially be wasting good meat with wasted wine.

Instead of doing that, put the wine or beer in a skillet with a bouquet garni of herbs and let the alcohol cook off. Once it cools, pour the marinade over the cut of meat in a Ziploc bag, making sure the marinade covers most of the meat. Then throw it in the fridge — fish should be marinated for no more than an hour, chicken and turkey can sit for up to eight hours, and beef can be marinated for up to a day.

Also note that you should use less acidic wine or beer for your marinade. That’s because acid can make the surface of the meat mushy. If you have a particularly acidic wine or beer — many sparkling whites will be acidic, sparkling reds will vary and many beers will not — dilute it with water before adding the meat.

Champagne vinegar 

As you’re unlikely to find vinegar made from the fine sparkling white wine you shared with your guests, making vinegar could be a cost-saving way to greatly improve your home culinary options. It’s also fun and easy to do.

Start by pouring the Champagne or sparkling white wine into a glass jar. You’ll then need to add what’s called a “mother.” Mothers essentially turn the alcohol in the wine into acetic acid, or vinegar. You can buy mothers online, at a specialty food store, or you can use unfiltered, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar. Mothers also need oxygen (didn’t think that would ever need to be written), so to seal off the jar, fasten cheesecloth securely over the opening.

Store the jar at room temperature out of direct sunlight for at least four weeks, stirring every so often and checking the taste.

Barbecue sauce 

Arguing about what region has the best barbecue is an American tradition. Inherent in that discussion are deepseeded dogmatic beliefs about vinegar, tomatoes and mustard. Secondary to that might be a conversation about dry versus wet, and then a discourse on brisket versus rib versus shoulder.

Funny names for court cases aside, beer-based barbecue sauce would fall into the “niche” category of barbecue. You’re likely to get a sneer and a “That’s cute” from any over-serious smoke jockey. But if you want to just get out and throw some meat on the grill and use up your flat beer, here’s an easy way to make that happen.

Put about 16 ounces of flat beer on the skillet, the darker the better (and root beer works great as well), and reduce it by about half. Add in about a quarter cup of each molasses and Worcestershire sauce, and about two cups of either ketchup or crushed tomatoes. Stir until integrated then add in salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder to your liking. Add in a pinch of paprika and cayenne pepper to taste. Reduce the heat and let it simmer for 15 to 30 minutes. Baste it over your choice of meat and throw it on the grill.

If you’re up for it, you can also make the Champagne vinegar above and add it in to your barbecue mix for a unique sauce.

Beer can chicken 

Perfect for this recipe is the fact that we’re dealing with half-drank cans of beer on New Year’s Day (or any other day you wake up with a bunch of flat beer). If you have the kind of relationship with friends and family where you don’t mind sipping out of their cup, then we’re starting at a good place. Or if you just found some old beer in the garage that’s gone flat, figure out a way to guzzle down half the can and then use the rest to stuff inside some meat.

You’ll want to get a chicken or Cornish hen no larger than four pounds. Take the giblets out, dry the bird and rub it with salt, pepper, or whatever rub you want to put on, and vegetable oil or butter. Then slide the chicken via its nether cavity over the can (opened, of course), and put the whole thing on the grill. Cook for about 75 minutes without direct heat (no burner or coals underneath), or until the breast meat reaches 165 degrees, and the wings 180 degrees. Don’t eat the beer can after cooking.

Drink it anyway 

This is the easiest option for reusing flat wine and beer. Some say the best. We can’t vouch for rejuvenating flat beer (although you can try your hand at running it through a carbonating device like SodaStream), but sparkling wine has a few options.

First, in what would straighten even the curliest of composed French mustaches, you can add carbonated orange juice, like Orangina, to flat Champagne for a reverse mimosa. You can also throw a raisin into a bottle of sparkling wine and after a few minutes, you’ll likely get a few more bubbles out of the drink. Carbon dioxide clings to the ridges of the raisin, and causes it to dance in the bottle, so even if doesn’t make your drink justpopped fizzy, you’ll got a weird little show.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com